Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Time Person of the Year

No.  I was not selected as Time's Person of the Year.  The good news is that I received as many votes for that as I did "Sexiest Man of the Year".  So I have that going for me.

Time's Person of the Year is Greta Thunberg.  For those of you who do not know much about Greta, she is a 16-year-old girl with Asperger's.  At 11-years-old, a video in school nearly broke her heart.  She came to realize that the planet was in peril, and that our ecosystems are suffering a horrible fate right under our noses.  

Greta, like so many others on the spectrum, processes information differently that the majority of people.  She sees things as much more black and white, without the distraction of bells and whistles.  She is unyielding in her conviction that climate change is real and it is rapidly destroying the very world we live in.  Everything else going on around her is just noise.  She doesn't care about fame, small talk, or insults.  

Unfortunately, something that is lost in the high argument of climate change, is the fact that this is a young girl with Asperger's.  Her disability tells her to shy away from people and to avoid interactions.  Yet she is driven to galvanize people.  She overcomes her own anxieties and fears to speak to a subject so much larger than her.  This alone makes her an amazing young lady.

She proves that there is an incredible message inside of everyone, regardless of what they are going through.  And that its very possible for that message to change the world.

Be well and God bless.     Tom 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a complicated thing.  Whether we are searching for ways to forgive someone else or forgive ourselves, there are many emotions that get in the way.

A member of our church spoke yesterday about Tony Showers, Jr. who is awaiting sentencing for the hit-and-run death of a 4-year-old girl.  This church member is mentoring Tony as part of (as I understand it) a veteran helping another troubled veteran program.  The mentor has also given one of Tyler's Bibles to Tony so that it may help him find God and make sense of all that has happened.  Tony's contact information has been posted at the church so that we can send offers of prayer to him as he comes to grip with what is ahead of him.  My first thought was to sit and write to Tony, to introduce myself as Tyler's dad and explain to him how he came to have that study Bible.  Perhaps Tyler's inspiration can work in this young man's life.

Then I thought of the family of the young girl.  We prayed for them during the service as well, but I was troubled thinking about the hell they must go through every day.  This is where those complicated thoughts hit me; how do we begin to forgive someone who chose to take drugs, hit an innocent little girl, and then leave her dead along the road.  It took 2 years to bring an arrest in the case, and another year to prosecute it.  It appears he not only did a terrible thing, but he refused to take responsibility for it.  How can we forgive that?

My great Uncle Art was murdered in 1975.  He walked into a store, which was being robbed at the time, and was shot dead while looking at celery.  He didn't realize a robbery was happening, and the young robber blew him away.  It left a gigantic hole in the lives of everyone who knew him, and was devastating to the family.  Lives were torn apart.  42 years later he was released as part of a juvenile offender program.  Essentially, because he was so young when he was convicted of the crime, he was entitled to be re-sentenced in 2016.  It was deemed that after 42 years, he deserved to be released and live the rest of his life (in poor health there was not much left to live) outside of prison.

Obviously and understandably there were members of the family that were conflicted and sad by the news that the murderer would be released from prison.  It invoked conversations of the justice system in general, and of that word "forgiveness".  I was saddened to see that one took it so far as to publicly wish him to "rot in hell".  It made me wonder what they thought Christianity and forgiveness really meant?  Does it mean you should preach forgiveness all day long, but if it happens in your own family you have a free pass to hate and deny forgiveness?  The perpetrator has shown in his actions and words since 1975 that he regrets doing such a horrible thing, and that he understands the hurt he caused the family.  He served 42 years of his life, essentially meaning his actions cost him his own life as well.  To say that a regretful man, regardless of the ugliness of his actions, deserves to "rot in hell" is to deny God and what he teaches us.  

How do we apply this to Tony Showers, Jr.?  He did drugs, ran over a young child, and refused to take accountability for it.  He tore people apart.  I think we start by having him take ownership for his actions.  He needs to acknowledge the pain he has caused and be willing to ask forgiveness for it.  If he is willing to be truly remorseful, we must forgive him. Regardless of how difficult it may be, we must be willing to forgive.  We cannot simply fall back on the hollow words that seem so popular in such situations "I forgive but I won't forget".  That, by the way, is code for "I don't really forgive, I just call it something else so it sounds better".  If we can't do this, then we too are truly lost.

I suppose my letter to Tony will be to introduce him to Tyler's story, and how I hope he uses that Bible to find what he needs to become a person worthy of the forgiveness that he needs.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Friday, December 6, 2019

300th Post

This post today marks the 300th entry into the blog.  With over 61,000 views, it's humbling to think about how many people have viewed these pages from all over the world.  

My Dad went into the hospital yesterday to have a heart procedure done.  While it was a relatively "routine" procedure, it feels lesser so as he becomes older.  Both of my parents are past 75 and heading toward 80.  Luckily they are both able to get around well and do not currently need extra support.  But you can now feel those independent days coming to an end.  So many of my friends and coworkers seem to be entering into the same territory, which makes me feel as though I'm passing into a different stage of my life.

I can't imaging what its like to be the one being taken care of, since I have been so heavily engaged in caregiving for so long.  Seeing my Dad last night and today gave me a glimpse however.  And it made me remember one very important thing:

We cannot ever discount a person's right to their dignity and their right to make their own choices.

In Tyler's case, it could be easy to forget that he is a man.  I have to believe, that no matter how pervasive his disabilities are, that he holds his own dignity in high importance.  He likely doesn't perceive it in the same way that most of us do, but he deserves that dignity all the same.  

My Dad takes his independence and pride very seriously.  He comes from a generation that relied on being strong and self-reliant, so he doesn't accept help easily.  He would sooner take twice as long to do something, than to have me help him do it.  It isn't that he doesn't like doing things with me, he just likes to do things on his own terms.  While this can be frustrating and at times nonsensical, I have to respect that it's important to him.  Its his way of maintaining control, even as the control begins to slip away.  He was always the one that stepped up and made decisions in times of crisis.  He was always the one to talk with doctors and make sense of situations for the elder generations.  Now, those generations are gone, and he is becoming the one getting closer to that role.  His son is now becoming more involved in his plans for the future.

Whether we are doing things and making decisions for Dad, or Tyler, or each other, we have to keep those rights at the forefront of our minds.  They are valued and irreplaceable parts of our lives who have traveled a long road to get to this point.  They deserve to be treated with care, respect, and humility.  They are not simply a name on a hospital registry, or a part of a government program.  They are first and foremost children of God, and sons, and fathers, and brothers, and friends.  

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Good Doctor

On Monday night I happened upon the television show "The Good Doctor".  Since the story centers around an autism savant as a surgical resident, I'm surprised I hadn't taken the time to watch it before.

A disclaimer before I go on....the lead character of Shaun Murphy is a much different person than what I have experienced Tyler to be.  I am not familiar with savants, and I have no way to judge the accuracy of the portrayal.  I can merely offer my gut feeling on the show..

The show that I watched was extremely well acted.  Freddie Highmore is obviously very interested in bringing dignity and realism to the role.  The acting around him is also very good.  I am a particular fan of Richard Schiff, who captures the essence of what it is like to communicate with someone who deals with life on a completely different plain.

The episode I watched dealt with Shaun and his dying father.  Admittedly, there were areas where I doubted the characters ability to process such complex feelings in order to make some of the decisions that he did.  We seemed to go from Shaun being unable to break from his set behaviors, to an ability to compromise, and back again.  But there were just as many times that I found myself recognizing his behaviors, and finding Tyler in them.  One in particular was Shaun as a boy unable to cross a stream, and his father essentially faced with forcing him over to the other side in order for life to continue on.  It was a very real moment for me.  Many times in Tyler's life we have had to swallow a difficult pill and do something we knew he wouldn't like for the sake of life continuing in a forward direction.  Another such instance was Shaun's inability to deal with some overwhelming emotions and becoming physically injurious to himself.

We have to keep in mind that the show has to tell a story, and it has to have a flow.  The writers have to be given a certain amount of latitude to allow the character to act and react in some unnatural ways to make this happen.  A one hour show about an autistic man rocking and playing Mozart on the piano would be compelling for a short time, but ultimately wouldn't be something to tune into every week.  I think the Good Doctor tries to strike a balance between realism and storytelling that wouldn't always go well together.

As for the concept itself, like with my feelings about Rainman, I have no problem.  These stories are bringing autism to the forefront of the viewers minds.  As long as they are not wildly inaccurate or remotely disrespectful, I think they are fine.  We are still very much in the early stages of really understanding the real life drama behind such characters, so any interest shown towards it is a good thing.

I'd be interested to know if any of you follow the program and have any feelings on the subject.

Be well and God bless.    Tom

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

When Ignorance Comes Calling

We all know them....the people that walk around cursing about our world that is supposedly filled with young people who are "too sensitive" or have it "too easy".  Their sentences typically start with the words "back in my day" before they tell you how men were men and women knew their place in the kitchen.

They forget one simple thing...they are the generation that raised this one.  Point thy finger at thyself if you don't like what you see.

I do agree that political correctness has its proper time and context.  I don't believe we should intentionally seek to offend anyone, but I also believe that historical context is important.  As with the case of the confederate flag, I don't think people should be banned from flying one if they choose to, but I also don't believe it should fly over government buildings.  I feel the same way about religious symbols, people should have every right to display symbols at their home, but public venues should not do so (especially government buildings).

I bring this up because yesterday I happened upon a conversation at work, and during the chit-chat "Mark" mentioned that his wife works as a teachers aide.  He continued on (as unfortunately so many are apt to do) that she deals with classrooms that contain kids with emotional and behavioral needs.  As he continued on (of course) he lamented that one child in particular has a full time aid with him, and yet there are still outbursts.  The last part was the peach of them all:

"When this kid is being bad, everyone has to get up and quietly leave the room.  I think they should all be told to turn their head so the teacher can give them a good smack in the head".

And there you have it.  I won't go into the layers of wrongness that this statement represents.  Ok, yes I will.

First of all, and this one is REALLY IMPORTANT, why do people with this attitude believe that everyone wants to hear this?  Is there no filter which says, maybe I could say something really offensive to someone so I shouldn't be blasting my mouth.  Secondly, the use of the word "bad" is offensive in and of itself.  Our kids are not special needs, emotionally crippled, or behaviorally inappropriate because they want to be.  These kids are imbalanced, or abused, or in some other way scarred and in need of our help.  Third, suggesting that violence toward anyone is appropriate, especially someone with special needs, is ignorant and disgusting.  

In that moment, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with Mark.  In a younger day I might have become irate and made a real stink of it.  As I've gotten older I've come to realize that my anger would not have changed his warped thinking even a little.  I decided at that very moment I would simply walk away.  There is a level of tone deafness and ignorance that even I can't penetrate.

I happened upon the other member of the conversation this morning and mentioned by disgust toward the comments Mark made.  Turns out his daughter works for a local residential facility for disabled individuals.  We discussed at length our experiences and family dynamics. 

Perhaps at some point in the near future I will take Mark to the side and have a conversation with him.  I may simply explain that he can never be sure of the personal beliefs and circumstances of those he is venting to.  I may tell him that for parents like me, its hurtful to hear someone suggest hitting an already needy child.  Even if the comments are made in jest or with a degree of sarcasm and hyperbole, they aren't appropriate and they shouldn't be said.  I know Mark well enough by now that he wasn't intentionally trying to hurt anyone's feelings, but it doesn't excuse being reckless with your words and taking the chance.

Ignorance is all around us.  Even if we have to be called "sensitive" or "snowflakes", its up to all of us to point out when someone has crossed the line of decency.  We have to do it because people like Tyler cannot do it for themselves.

Be well and God bless.

Tom